Watershed Stewardship: An Ethic in Action
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AS THE INTERFAITH PARTNERS for the Chesapeake tries to become an important player in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, it is relying in many counties on the work of two key partners: the Watershed Stewards Academy program and the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program.

It seems an obvious fit, the connection between the Interfaith Partners and the Watershed Stewards Academy training program. The mission for the religious group is recruiting and educating church congregations about restoration focused on the Bay. And the mission for the training program is recruiting and teaching volunteers to diagnose and respond to stormwater runoff problems. The programs train master watershed stewards who can then educate others and serve as trusted sources of information for communities trying to manage runoff.

For a number of congregations, the Interfaith Partners enrolls key members in a local academy. "We sent people to get trained for six or eight months," says Bishop Thomas of the Empowering Believers Church, "and those are the ones I am looking for to keep us moving in the right direction."

Another practical fit: the connection between the Interfaith Partners and the watershed specialists of the Maryland Sea Grant Extension program. Their mission: helping local governments and citizens groups tackle water-quality problems across the state. Their approach: provide churches with technical and fund-raising expertise. Specialists can survey church grounds and buildings, identify runoff problems, design possible solutions, and help develop grant proposals for funding assistance.

"They serve as a kind of community consulting service," says Jodi Rose, executive director for the Interfaith Partners. "We leverage them as a great community resource."

Their community expertise also helped set up some of those Watershed Stewards Academy training programs that the Interfaith Partners relies on for educating church-goers. Extension worked with community partners to set up these programs in Cecil and St. Mary's Counties and in the National Capital Region, which also includes Prince George's and Montgomery Counties.

Four Extension specialists work with academies around Maryland. Jennifer Dindinger and Eric Buehl are helping with programs at the Watershed Stewards Academy in Cecil County and Jackie Takacs organized the new academy in St. Mary's County. Amanda Rockler developed the plan that established standards and practices for the National Capital Region program and is working on a feasibility study for creating a separate academy in Montgomery County.

It's clearly a natural fit, this connection between the training programs and the watershed specialists and the churches. After all, the concept of stewardship, so important to contemporary environmental restoration, has its roots in both the Bible and the Qur'an, the founding documents for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

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